Drupa to catapult inkjet growth forward

Commercial inkjet print sales will dominate growth in the printing sector over the next five years, as Drupa catapults new technology into wider adoption, according to a new report by market intelligence firm Smithers.

10 May 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

Forecasting growth from USD 117.7-bn in 2024 to USD 162.1-bn in 2029, Smithers’ The Future of Inkjet Printing to 2029 report predicted a compound annual growth rate in the inkjet market of 6.6%.

At the same time, the report said, the volume of publications, graphic media, packaging and labels printed on inkjet will jump from 1.61 trillion A4 equivalents to 2.29 trillion.

Inkjet’s strong growth stands in contrast to the rest of the print market’s static outlook, where Smithers predicts output will remain flat for the remainder of the decade.

Smithers put inkjet growth down to an overall trend towards consumers choosing their own preferred media channels, driving down run lengths in several applications, and inkjet’s rapid integration with online resources, like web-to-print portals, and conversion processes.

Many print manufacturing workflows are increasingly being optimised for inkjet, helping to drive costs down further, according to Smithers, and continued innovation within label and packaging inkjet applications helping the technology to increase its market share.

Drupa will prove particularly influential, thanks to its injection of new technology into the market; new sales will only accelerate the industry’s transition to digital printing in multiple sectors, with Smithers predicting the fastest growth in inkjet sales to be in packaging, labels and books.

Faster turnarounds, print-on-demand sales, and high-quality print will mean that inkjet’s market share by value will remain ahead of its volume share in nearly all applications; likewise, with on-press speeds and printhead resolution forecast to double over the next five years, the economic crossover point for inkjet against analog processes is rising, and will see inkjet able to take on longer runs at cheaper prices, as well as being more viable in a wider range of applications.

Smithers print consultant Sean Smyth told Printweek: “In 2029 inkjet will be used to print many more products than it is today and across the world Smithers forecasts some 9.9% of all value across for-profit print and printed packaging, but just 2.6% of the print volume. It is this added value opportunity that is attracting pint companies and particularly equipment suppliers into the market. Inkjet already dominates in some sectors, such as mailings, books and display and is growing rapidly in general commercial and significantly in labels and packaging. The Future of Inkjet Printing to 2029 gives unparalleled insight into one of the most dynamic sectors of print. In looking at the market Smithers continually conducts research and analysis to ensure the market sizing is accurate. Smithers tracks inkjet volumes closely, obtaining information from the major equipment and ink providers as well as print and packaging converters. While some sectors do see changes – for example in packaging we revised the absolute numbers down after detailed analysis – the general trends have not changed materially, except perhaps steadily increasing the compound annual growth rates in some sectors.”

He added: "While there certainly are some new applications opened by inkjet, most of the production volume is in applications that previously were printed using litho and other analogue methods. I can’t remember the last time I was in a corrugated plant that did not have inkjet printing, either single-pass or multi-pass with HP Scitex, Inca Digital, Agfa or Durst equipment, as the display market is now dominated by inkjet. That is the case for transactional and direct mail print where single-pass inkjet allows a white paper solution that can significantly reduce the cost of mailing. In security applications, inkjet allows unique coding and numbering that is growing, and single-pass book manufacturing, using inkjet for the sections and now the covers, is a more efficient method of production than the serial offset print, gathering and binding. This analogue to digital transformation is happening across the world, led by Western Europe and North America with hotspots in Asia and Australasia. There is much activity in China, and Drupa will prove to be a good showcase for Chinese inkjet vendors to show off their progress to the west.”

The forthcoming Drupa will showcase many new machines, printheads, inks, drying systems, paper and other substrates for inkjet, pushing the quality and reliability upwards. It will be exciting to see new vendors entering the market and showcasing their expertise from other sectors.

Smyth said, “I think the trend to look at integrating manufacturing will be important, with vendors (many in partnership with finishing equipment providers) emphasising the speed to market and low manual requirement for their systems. This will help solve the skilled labour shortages (and their costs) afflicting many print companies today, but will also open the opportunity for other players to consider taking print into their operations. Smithers has been asked by several brands to examine the feasibility of taking packaging print into their operations using digital print. Digital print lowers the entry barriers for operations considering the make or buy conundrum, inkjet allows high-volume production to be used by brands, retailers or co-packers economically and I think this will be a trend going forward, perhaps in conjunction with existing packaging and label converters.”

(Source: PrintWeek.com)

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